Sketching Around Town

19 October, 2017. A couple of weeks ago someone posted to the Urban Sketchers Kansas City Facebook group a plea for sketchers to document the Lane Blueprint building at 15th and Main. The Lane building is slated for demolition despite the valiant efforts of local groups. I’ve many memories of working with Lane back in my early days as a graphic designer, so I made an effort to travel south of the river for a downtown sketching mission. It’s not an especially attractive structure but it represents Kansas City history, and that certainly counts for a lot.

That same afternoon I meandered further south to Westport, a block or two from our former studio on Main. Yes, I’m still carrying around a variety of papers and yes, this seems like an odd one for this type of sketching. I thought I might try hitting it with spots of color but haven’t gotten around to it yet.

I’ve always been a little intrigued with alleys and the spaces between and behind buildings. They have this sort of overlooked and forgotten sort of appeal to me. I came across this scene while scouting locations for a urban plein air workshop I was supposed to teach at the Kansas City Art Institute this month.

Back in our old stomping grounds, right across the street from our old studio, people loitered on the street corner. I cringe a little seeing how these cool old buildings have been repurposed for such mundane things as tax preparation. I feel like they were meant for better stuff.

I swear this scene wasn’t nearly as mysterious as the drawing makes it seem. It’s a byproduct of the positive/negative emphasis I’ve been focusing on in many of my sketches lately. I rather like the “Dutch Angle,” which is a cinematic convention I use in my photography, and for which I can thank the late, great Robert Krasker. (If you’re unfamiliar with the framing technique, be sure to check out Krasker’s camera work in the 1949 Carol Reed film noire The Third Man, starring Joseph Cotten and Orson Welles.) Come to think of it, even the sketch itself seems reminiscent of that film. I haven’t watched it in a good long while, maybe I need to revisit it soon.

It’s not just forgotten alley ways that intrigue me: I also just love old diners. Passing Lucy’s Diner one day led me to promise myself breakfast there the following morning. OK, so the food turned out not to be especially great, but the ambiance made up for it. And having left my pen out in the car, I found myself scratching the scene out with a pencil instead.

Urbanization is evident in nearly every corner of Northwest Arkansas as evidenced by the imminent demise of this old barn, soon to be replaced by – what? A housing development? More retail?


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